Why the Presidential Election Might Not End on November 3

Wednesday, September 30, 2020
2020 presidential election


Why the Election Might Not End November 3

This year’s presidential election faces unprecedented challenges, between the pandemic, protests and violence, and uncertainty over vote-by-mail ballots. Read the summary, watch the video and answer the discussion questions below. For a transcript of the video, click here.

  • Some experts are concerned that President Trump may declare victory before all votes are tabulated and then challenge the legitimacy of any votes that flip state results in candidate Joe Biden’s favor after election night.
  • Record numbers of voters are expected to vote by mail this year because of concerns over safety of in-person voting due to COVID-19. Polling shows proportionally more Democrats plan to vote by mail than Republicans.
  • All states have their own voting regulations and procedures. For instance, some states don’t allow counting of mail votes until all in-person voting is closed, while some states allow earlier counts. In some states, mail-in votes might take days or weeks to fully count.
  • Despite President Trump’s claims, there is no evidence of national widespread or coordinated voter fraud, according to current FBI director Christopher Wray and election officials.

Discussion Questions

Have your students identify the 5Ws and an H:

  • Who has authority over counting votes?
  • What are some of the reasons this election may take longer to determine than usual?
  • When and where are votes counted in national elections?
  • Why are some politicians, including President Donald Trump, casting doubt on the fairness and legitimacy of different ways of voting?
  • How will disputes about ballots after election night be resolved?

Then have students share with the class or through a Learning Management System (LMS).

Focus questions:

  1. Why do you think voting procedures for national elections are largely set at the state level rather than national level?
  2. How do you think voting could be made more fair in your state and in the United States as a whole?

Media literacy: 

  1. Do you know how to find out the voting law in your state? How do you find out if regulations or procedures change with new circumstances such as court decisions and COVID-19 restrictions?

Dig Deeper: Just how does voting by mail work? Have students watch the video below, and use this lesson from August for additional information. You may also use the resources below designed by iCivics, which ask students to analyze the advantages and disadvantages of mail-in voting.



Use this resource from iCivics to learn more about voting by mail and take a quiz. Note: You’ll need to register for a free iCivics account in order to access the lesson plan. In this lesson, students will learn:


Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.